02 September, 2010

Equal Treatment

I've been watching this whole Ground Zero (and every other) Mosque kerfluffle with bemusement.  I mean, seriously, people, there are worse things in the world than a Muslim community center.  Take Glenn Beck, for instance. Believe me when I say that given the choice between an hour with him and a day with Imam Rauf, it's the imam hands-down.  We'd probably have a good conversation, and I wouldn't come away covered in spittle.

There's been a sense that, to be a good liberal, you mustn't say a single thing against moderate Islam or the community center, which is absolute bullshit.  I read an article at Butterflies and Wheels last night that rather put that in perspective:
Again, I can understand that point, and on an everyday basis of course I am pleased to see the emergence of moderates who are seeking to divert Muslims away from extremism, but, at the same time, to exempt moderates from theological and philosophical criticism on this basis is condescending to them as fellow adults and also reinforces a worrying notion that as long as a belief system isn’t likely to immediately result in a bombing campaign then that belief system should be beyond criticism.
No-one would consider that their personal political views should be exempt from criticism just because they are non-violent political views, and it would be an absurd and worrying precedent to be set were that the case. Religion is no different. Despite the fact that religious people seem to have a lot emotionally invested in their ‘faith’, the fact remains that religion, just like politics, is an ideology, and as such it is a perfectly legitimate target for criticism and debate, even if it is liberal and moderate in its nature.
Criticism of the sort that we deal out on a daily basis to every other religion and bit of woozy thinking doesn't automatically put us in the same camp as the xenophobic frothing freaks who are busy drumming up as much anti-Muslim animus as possible.

Some folks in the atheist community aren't for the community center, nor do they have to be.  They don't scream with joy at the grand opening of every Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or any-ol'-sect's newest building, either.  Most of what I've seen from our side is simply equal treatment - religion doesn't get a pass, not even when it's getting drenched in Glenn Beck's raving spittle.  Not that we're likely to be out there protesting, either, because when it comes down to it, Muslims have every right to build a nice community center for themselves in old clothing stores.  Or in Tennessee, or California, or wherever they may roam.  This is a free country in which you are free to waste your money on invisible sky daddies if you like.  We might critique your faith (sometimes starkly, perhaps even dickishly), and we might grumble about the idiocy of it all, but we're not going to be out there vandalizing, burning, or otherwise damaging your property, and we're sure as shit not going to be beating people up because they look Muslim.

Folks who want to lump us in the same category as the lackwits who've been out doing all of the above need to remember something:
Yes, of course we have to respect everyone’s right to hold irrational beliefs, but no of course we do not have to respect the irrational beliefs themselves. There’s a difference, and the difference matters.
Indeed it does.

As PZ says on this matter: "I don't like the Manhattan mosque, but they've got the right — as long as I've got the right to point and laugh."  This being America, and the Cons not yet having had their way with the 10,000,000,000 amendments they want to add, and all the existing ones they want to amend into oblivion, we each have that right. Though the frothing fundies don't realize it, the freedom to worship or not, where and when one chooses, is one of those things that makes America the amazing place that it is.

So, Imam Rauf, don't let the bastards keep you from building your center.  This is America, you are an American, and you can absolutely waste your time on outmoded superstition, if you like.  Good luck to you.

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